Daily Diversity 2

What you get for R10-00.

I was leaving Fish Hoek’s only little mall to cross Main Road. A man (for these stories I have to specify: an ordinary-looking Coloured man of about 30) was sitting against a pillar. He was not begging, but when he saw me really see him, he brightened and sat up straight. “Please,” he said, “can you give me R4? I am thirsty  and I want to buy a drink.”

I did a mental knee-jerk. “Do you want to buy alcohol?” I asked. I already knew I was going to help him, but THAT is what came out of my mouth. Then I remembered the drought and that drinking water wasn’t easy to find. After that I realised that R4 would buy no alcohol of any sort. He looked a bit taken aback, but just muttered something. Then he saw that I was offering him R10 and said thank you as he took it, but the brightness was gone.

Of course the brightness was gone. I had lost the chance to be a fellow human being. What on earth is wrong with me, I thought as I crossed the road. Did I imagine that R10, not enough for a good cup of coffee, bought me the right to judge and dictate?  No, no, that isn’t me, I yelled back at myself. Isn’t it? Then why didn’t you say something harmless like Yes, it’s hot today? Entitled, arrogant, that’s what I was; still locked into all the prejudices I had been listening to since my childhood. Heck, I wish he could afford a beer!  Whatever his story was, his life had been much harder than mine.

I noticed that another white woman had been watching me and was just opening her car door. She gave me a broad, approving smile. That was something; an awful lot of whites would say R10 was too much; don’t give money for nothing; don’t encourage begging… I took comfort from her smile. She hadn’t heard what I said and thought I was building better relationships. Bless her heart.

Daily Diversity

I have found the focus for my blog -the daily diversity I experience in South Africa. I’ve been rambling about
Considering emigration – so now it’s time for the D in
Daily Diversity.

The Facebook page Afrikaners against Racism inspired me. I thought I was woke, I mean fully. I knew all about this racism thing and would be able to contribute and after a while, I would probably lead – as whites almost always do, haha! Well, I liked and commented, and did get likes in return, all pretty cosy. But then I got rapped over the knuckles for talking about racism as an attitude. I was taken aback, hurt. They said I’d been a member of the group long enough to know that racism was systemic, and of course, that’s true. Wow! I’d better assume a little humility here and pay more attention, I thought.

So I’ll be sharing what happens every single day here in Cape Town, what it’s like on the ground. That’s the thing, isn’t it? No one can end racism but the people, ordinary people, who can be prodded in the right direction. Looking at ourselves is a beginning.

I’m an elderly (still don’t know how that happened) white woman, and that has to be my perspective, but I’d welcome your comments, reactions, outrage, understanding and stories. Let’s talk.

Daily Diversity Story 1: Danny’s Advice.

I was driving the seven-year-old I call my grandson home one day. He had been living in the Free State until a few months before (it’s complicated). I swerved to pick up a hitch-hiker. Danny went quiet. Maybe he wanted my attention all for himself. Turned out the chatty black man (for diversity stories I guess I have to mention these things?) was a bus driver. We talked about this and that, and he said he’d have liked to join the picket outside Masiphumelele where a group of us protested weekly about the conditions there, but his hours would not allow it.

He was going to get out of the car in Lekkerwater Road, or Delicious Water Road, a tantalising name during a drought. Just before he opened the door, Danny turned around from his front seat and said, “But be careful to go to the Free State!  They don’t like black people there!” We adults both smiled and quick as a flash the driver answered, “Don’t worry, my boy. We are going to create a world where that won’t happen any more. We will all be happy together.” Danny looked reassured and I hope I looked grateful as I bade him goodbye and good luck. Then he walked to his shack and we drove home to the A-frame with its bore-hole watered lawns…